GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - The helicopter landing during Friday’s Veterans Day ceremony got Paul Bohn’s attention. He remembers the sound well.
He was part of the Navy Gamewardens who flew helicopters that provided air support in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam.
“Yeah, I’m proud of my service,” he said with emotion. “I’m proud of the guys that didn’t make it too. It’s hard to talk about it. That’s why I’m wearing black today.”
He usually shies away from ceremonies like this, but the children who come out to the annual Veterans Day Open House at the Armed Forces Retirement Home make him hopeful.
“That’s good to see. Really,” he said. “Because that’s where everything starts. Right over there.”
Residents and visitors were treated to performances by the Gulfport High School Band and the Anniston Elementary School choir.
Outside displays by first responders and military units were featured throughout the grounds, but the veterans took center stage.
Chief Master Sgt. David Pizzuto, commanding officer of the 81st Training Wing at Keesler Air Force Base, was the guest speaker.
“I humbly thank all our veteran heroes and their families for their service to our great nation and the sacrifices endured for our freedom,” he told the crowd.
Those words were echoed by Air Force veteran Chuck Teston.
“This is a great American tradition,” he said. “And without the veterans, without the military, without our constitution, without our president, we wouldn’t be a free country. I always remember that. And these people that you see here paid the ultimate price of being a veteran, and I won’t ever forget that.”
The day also was an opportunity to see artwork by the residents, tour the center and enjoy each other’s company.
“The idea of the community coming in and seeing this home is what it’s all about,” said veteran and AFRH resident Raymond Ross. “You can’t beat this place. It’s the best retirement home in the nation. Bar none.”
Veterans Day commemorates the anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I in 1918.